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Bringing food closer to home

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- From the NBA basketball court in the 1970's to the garden today, Will Allen has traveled the world for two decades with one purpose--to get people to think local when it comes to their next meal.

He started the nonprofit organization Growing Power, Inc. to bring food growers closer to where people live.

"Change the food system into [one] that brings food into people's lives. That makes food access[[ible]] into every community," says Allen. "Healthy food that will improve the dynamics of the community."

Growing up on a farm, Allen saw the need for urban farming after retiring from basketball. He says urban farming creates jobs once it's scaled up, and it builds better relationships.

"Building a food system brings people together that would never talk to each other in communities," explains Allen.

He's witnessed healthier bodies, relationships, and economies result in reduced crime and overall better qualities of life.

Allen met Wednesday at Gaining Ground in Chattanooga with students from Soddy-Daisy's Ivy Academy to offer his "food for thought".

"What I do is try to inspire them to go into some action. To really change how they think about food," says Allen.

His message was taken to heart by freshmen Alyce Nester, from Whitwell, and Allyson Hawes from Soddy-Daisy.

"I've been talking to some people around Whitwell and Soddy about starting a community garden," says Nester.

"I've always wanted to be a farmer since I was little because some of my family...are farmers," says Hawes.

But for youths who don't want to dig in the dirt when they grow up, there are other ways for them to get involved in the revolution of urban farming. After all, Allen admits, not everyone wants to just plant food.

"We need engineers. We need biologists. We need truck drivers and carpenters. Renewable energy people," explains Allen.

"We need planners. Educators," adds Allen.

He is impressed by the enthusiasm of the students in the Tennessee Valley and believes Chattanooga is on its way to becoming a bigger player in urban farming.

Growing Power, Inc. is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and employs around 140 people.

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